Travel conflict

There is a tension between the desire to see the world, and the desire for humanity to be good stewards of the world.

Travel is energy intensive. It releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is especially true of air travel, but most other modes of travel aren’t very good, either.

Trains can be pretty good, but better if they don’t try to compete with flying in speed. They’re good for freight, partly because usually no-one minds if it goes a bit slower, but also because it doesn’t need more leg room on longer journeys.

Ships are even better than trains for freight.

You’d think that trains and ships would have the same advantage over flying for passengers as they do for freight, but it’s not quite as big an advantage. The reason is that when people travel more slowly and so take more time on a journey, they need more space to move about, more facilities for provision of food and drink, and more washing and toilet facilities. This is a significant issue when you’re considering a choice between a few hours in a plane and a few days on a ship, much less so for a short ferry crossing.

Of course the best way to travel is by bicycle, staying in guesthouses and eating local food wherever you stop. This is absolutely sustainable, although it does need usable roads or cycle paths. Failing that, you could go on foot, or in a sailing boat. But don’t imagine I’m dismissing buses or trains (especially those that aren’t quite so fast)!

You don’t have the time to spend travelling so slowly? Well, that’s something to do with our culture. It’s not an inescapable fact of existence. It’s something we could – should – change. It’s a political issue.

Not only is this kind of travel far more sustainable, it’s also a better experience. You experience the places on the way, not just the destination. It used to be said that it was better to travel hopefully than to arrive, but that’s nonsense if you’re travelling by air.